It was a dark and stormy night in May (all the best stories start with dark and stormy) when I got a phone call from a friend: “Hey, I’m heading out to Rogue Wave‘s Oakland studio for a huge jam session for their new album!” Along with thirty of their friends, ranging in age from teensy to old, experienced musican to absolute novice, Rogue Wave staged a melodic cacophony for in their song “Own Your Own Home” on their newest album Asleep At Heaven’s Gate. It sounded like an insufferably cool idea to me at the time, and guess what?
ROGUE WAVE: The Making of Asleep At Heaven’s Gate
Impressions of the third studio release from this talented Bay Area band are extremely positive. This record could go huge for Rogue Wave if people have their ears on right. It is fresh and musically rich — apparently over 150 instruments were used on the album, and my ears love it.
The album has a jangle and a shimmer a la former Sub-Pop labelmates The Shins or Band of Horses, but I also find it echoing another one of my favorite records lately, The Swimmers from Philadelphia. If you recall, The Swimmers made an album centered around a short story of a man who swims home through a series of his neighbors’ suburban swimming pools, and the entire thing is rife with the feelings of floating, or sinking, or sometimes drowning. Several songs on Asleep At Heaven’s Gate evoke that for me as well.
Much of this album strikes me immediately and viscerally. Example: the first time I listened to it, I was doing sit-ups at the gym and had to keep stopping to drum along on my solar plexus (um, gym talk) to some of these potent rhythms. And while it is not unusual for me to feel like the rhythm is gonna get me, I loved the variety on this album — they experimented with everything from drumming on walls & doors to handclaps and “ass slaps” (according to their MySpace).
The album opens with a newly-rejuvenated Pat Spurgeon machine gun rat-a-tatting his healthy-kidney insides out (he got a transplant in January) on “Harmonium,” which swirls and sounds more epic than anything they’ve done that I can recall. There’s a flow to the whole album, but some standout tracks for me are “Chicago x 12″ (which features Matthew Caws of Nada Surf), the unrelenting “Phony Town,” and the alt-country inflected album closer “Cheaper Than Therapy.”
Zach Rogue says that the band was listening to a lot of Wendy Carlos while they were writing this album — she scored movies like The Shining and A Clockwork Orange. I can hear that ambient influence on songs like the infectious “Like I Needed,” which starts out just creepily enough. “Own Your Own Home” begins with the directive to the crowd heard in the video above, and ratchets up the group-clamoring and feverish strumming to a cult-like din at the end of the song. It’s a combination of celebration & “bust out the grape Kool-Aid.” I love it.
TUNES: Since I’ll be drawn and quartered if I post any of the new goodness from Rogue Wave, I’ll have to go with some of the old goodness. This is a nice little set from one of my favorite record stores, the warehouse/Mecca of Amoeba Records on Haight in San Francisco: